“Any government would do this,” the official said, speaking Thursday on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly about making contingency plans if the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action falls through. “We obviously have to look at what we will do if we conclude that Iran is either not interested in coming back to the JCPOA, or its nuclear advantage is such that it doesn’t make sense for JCPOA to have been hollowed out.”The official said that the US and other participants in the talks prefer “to come back to the table,” and added that if there is any concern about a Plan B, it’s “the one that Iran, where they want to continue to build that and not be seriously engaged to return to the JCPOA.”The US official’s comments came two days after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi used his address before the United Nations General Assembly to deliver his own message. He insisted Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, that the US is at fault for leaving the nuclear deal and emphasized that the US has to meet its obligations under the deal first, by lifting sanctions.Raisi’s defiant stance is one reason European diplomats say they are concerned that Iran may be less flexible about negotiations, thinking it can take advantage of the Biden administration’s diminished standing on the world stage after the foreign policy crises of Afghanistan, a diplomatic spat with France and condemnation of its treatment of Haitian refugees.While the Iranian president reiterated his promise to return to talks and Iran moved to avert a crisis over nuclear inspections this month, analysts point to a slew of indicators that suggest progress isn’t likely soon, including domestic political concerns and the appointment of hardliners who oppose the deal. Meanwhile, the US continues to emphasize its willingness to restart talks — but also that its patience is in danger of wearing thin. “The window of opportunity is open and won’t be open forever if Iran takes a different course,” the official said. “At some point, we may have to conclude that the JCPOA no longer fulfills the non-proliferation benefits that we bargained for,” the official told reporters. If Iran continues to delay a return to talks or takes positions inconsistent with a US-Iran mutual return to the JCPOA, “we may conclude that Iran simply has a different course of action in mind, and we’ll have to act accordingly.”The official said that the US and other parties still wanted to go back to the negotiating table but noted that it has been three months since the last round of talks “and since that time, Iran has continued to grow its nuclear program.” Since that time, the US and other countries involved in the nuclear talks also have not been able to get clarity on Iran’s position on the nuclear talks after Raisi’s election in early August, the official said. Iran has not given other parties to the talks a date for when they would be ready to resume negotiations, the official said. The last round of meetings in Vienna took place about three months ago. European diplomats are increasingly concerned that the Iranians may see the Biden administration’s diminished standing on the world stage — given a number of crises — as an opportunity to be less flexible at the negotiating table.”They may try to get more out of the Americans now,” warned one European diplomat.Biden administration officials do not expect that to be the case particularly because Iran has been hard to pin down throughout the entirety of the last few months, a second administration official told CNN.Making the West sweatIran has not given an indication of whether they’re willing to continue the work of the previous administration either, the senior State Department official said, or whether it will want a different framework for the talks. Finally, Raisi’s government has not given other countries any sense of whether it will send the same negotiating team or whether they will appoint a new slate of officials. Henry Rome, the deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East at the Eurasia Group, said that some Iranian hardliners see the delay as an advantage. “More time affords Iran greater opportunities to make nuclear advances, and delays make the West sweat—both of which, in the eyes of some Iranian hardliners, give Iran greater leverage for when it returns to talks,” Rome says. The structural incentives for Iran to return to the nuclear deal continue to be overwhelming, Rome says. Being able to export more oil would mean more revenue, regaining access to some of the $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves frozen abroad and engage with the international financial system would be other advantages.ImpasseBut Rome says Iranian hawks argue that the economic benefits of the deal are overstated and that Iran has already survived former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign. These officials believe “the best way to relieve sanctions pressure is not to negotiate them away but to ‘nullify’ them altogether using Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s concept of a ‘resistance economy’,” Rome says. Raisi, speaking Tuesday to the General Assembly, said, “the United States mistakenly believed it would render us desperate and devastated, but our perseverance has yielded results and will always do.”Despite the impasse, the senior State Department official said there is wide agreement on two points among the other parties to the nuclear talks — China, Russia, the US, the UK, France, Germany and the European Union. First, that talks in Vienna need to resume as soon as possible and secondly, that they need to resume where they left off. The official said the US and other countries were willing to be patient, but that there are limits and so far, they are seeing “certainly no indication, positive indication of interest” from Iran yet about continuing talks. The US has not had any official meetings with Iran at the UN General Assembly.
Russia and China hold first joint patrol in the western Pacific, Russian defense ministry says
The patrols involved a total of 10 warships, five from each nation, and lasted a week, from Sunday, October 17 to Saturday, October 23, covering 1,700 nautical miles, according to the Ministry.The objective of the joint patrol was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region…
The patrols involved a total of 10 warships, five from each nation, and lasted a week, from Sunday, October 17 to Saturday, October 23, covering 1,700 nautical miles, according to the Ministry.The objective of the joint patrol was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and also protect facilities of both countries’ maritime economic activity,” the statement read. “During the patrol, the group of warships passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time,” the statement added. The Tsugaru strait is body of water between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in the northern part of the country, connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the patrol, the two navies practiced joint tactical maneuvers and did a series of military drills, the statement added.The two countries have an ongoing military partnership and have conducted a series of joint military drills, the most high profile of which was “Vostok 2018,” which involved a simulated battle in which a Russian-Chinese coalition fought a fictional enemy.In August, Russia and China joined forces once again to use a joint command and control system, with Russian troops integrated into Chinese formations, according to a statement by China’s defense ministry at the time.Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin has an ally in Chinese President Xi Jinping, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian telling a news briefing in June that the two countries were “united like a mountain” with an “unbreakable” friendship.CNN’s Brad Lendon, Nectar Gan, Ben Westcott, Mary Ilyushina and Nathan Hodge contributed to this report.
Royal Caribbean announces nine-month world cruise
(CNN) — It would’ve been unthinkable 12 months ago as the cruise industry reeled from the effects of Covid, but one operator is now offering an epic new voyage that will last nine months and take travelers to more than 150 destinations. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Serenade of the Seas is set to commence sailing…
(CNN) — It would’ve been unthinkable 12 months ago as the cruise industry reeled from the effects of Covid, but one operator is now offering an epic new voyage that will last nine months and take travelers to more than 150 destinations. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Serenade of the Seas is set to commence sailing in December 2023 from Miami, sailing for 274 nights before returning to Florida in September 2024.In a statement, Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said the trip — dubbed “The Ultimate World Cruise” — is designed to help travel-starved cruisers “make up for lost time.”Voyaging the globeSerenade of the Seas has been a stalwart of the RCCL fleet since 2003. The 965 feet long ship has 13 decks and can accommodate up to 2,476 guests, according to Royal Caribbean’s website.Upon leaving Miami on the world cruise in late 2023, the vessel is set to travel around the Caribbean, before scheduled stop offs in Central and South America, including trips to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro and Argentina’s Iguazu Falls.Also on the globe-spanning itinerary are landmarks including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza.Travelers can book the full nine-month experience, or schedule a specific chunk of the trip and just join for the Americas and Antarctica, for example. Royal Caribbean told CNN Travel the price range for the full excursion is between $66,000 to $112,000 per person, plus taxes and fees.World cruises were a staple of the cruise scene pre-pandemic, but usually topped out at 150 days or so. Viking Cruises scheduled a 245-day trip from August 2019 to May 2020 on board Viking Sun, but this voyage was cut short when Covid-19 shut down the cruise industry in Spring 2020.Cruising has since recommenced in many markets, with cruise companies keen to prove a vacation at sea is a safe and viable holiday option.It’s still over two years until the Serenade of the Seas is set to embark on its globe-spanning trip, but travelers can reserve their cabins now.Top photo courtesy Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images
Explosion at Russian gunpowder workshop kills 17, report says
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said a criminal investigation had been launched into the blast.According to Reuters, an entire shift of workers was at the site when the brick building was ripped apart.Emergency services were alerted at 8:22 a.m. Moscow time to a fire at the Shilovsky district, Lesnoy village, Ryazan region, Russia’s…
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said a criminal investigation had been launched into the blast.According to Reuters, an entire shift of workers was at the site when the brick building was ripped apart.Emergency services were alerted at 8:22 a.m. Moscow time to a fire at the Shilovsky district, Lesnoy village, Ryazan region, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said.Officials believe the fire started at one of the plant’s gunpowder workshops, the ministry said.A video circulating on social media on Friday purportedly shows the moment the blast happened, with a yellow fireball rising in the air from the brick building. Images from the disaster showed scattered, charred debris as smoke billows over a demolished building.”The body of the 17th victim was taken out from under the rubble of the workshop. Search and rescue operations at the explosion site have been completed, there are no more people under the rubble,” TASS cited the emergency services as saying.Regional Governor Nikolay Lubimov declared October 25 a day of mourning in the Ryazan region, which lies to the southeast of Moscow, for those killed in the blast and insisted more needed to be done to ensure the safety of those working in “hazardous industries.””This is an egregious case, and everything possible must be done so that nothing like this will happen again. Both in hazardous industries and in those that are lower in hazard class, but can pose a threat to the life and health of people,” he said. Lubimov said he would recommend that authorities carry out unscheduled inspections at such facilities.A statement from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said officials would check the plant’s compliance with safety standards for hazardous production facilities. The investigation will also consider what may have caused the fire, it said.CNN’s Katharina Krebs reported from Moscow and Toyin Owoseje wrote from London.